You may have heard the term “superfoods” before, but what is a superfood, exactly? The short definition is a type of food that’s rich in nutrients and considered especially beneficial to your health. Nutrition experts and physicians agree that no single food alone can improve one’s health. However, some foods can provide greater health benefits than others because they pack a nutritional punch. We call these foods superfoods.
Incorporating superfoods into your meal plan gives your nutrition a boost while reducing the risk of many different health issues—such as heart disease and even memory loss. That’s why we’ve created a list of superfoods that can help power your body and get you to a heightened wellness level. But first, it’s important we discuss why you should consider incorporating superfoods into your diet so you truly understand what’s behind the magic.
Out of all nutrient deficiencies, iron, folate, and vitamins B6, B12, A, C, and E are some of the most common. Superfoods boast higher amounts of these essential nutrients, which help eliminate deficiency and get you back on track to achieving a healthy balance.
Today, most of society is also under constant, damaging stress.1 This can drain you—both physically and mentally—and strip away critical nutrients that help support your body and overall health. While you probably can’t eliminate all stress from your life, superfoods can provide you with the extra support you may need via vitamins and minerals.
The nutritional boost you get from superfoods can benefit you in countless ways, from helping you sleep better at night and perform better during the day to lowering your risk of chronic illness.
Superfoods can support digestive health. Here is a list of digestive-improving foods to include in your daily nutrition.
Kiwis are superfoods because they contain potassium, folate, and vitamins K, C, and E. They are also a great source of antioxidants and have a high fiber content. Fiber helps your digestion by keeping you fuller longer and supporting regular bowel movements.
The family of dark green, leafy vegetables is nutrient-dense, providing essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, antioxidants, folate, fiber, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. Folate is also a B vitamin, which promotes heart health and even aids in the prevention of some birth defects. The high fiber content of the greens found in this group is known to actively support a healthy digestive system.
High in vitamin C, science says that this fruit contains soluble fiber and may be able to help improve your digestive health. However, be sure you eat the actual pulp of the lemon and not just the juice. Also, drinking warm lemon water in the morning is a healthy detox trend that has been growing in popularity, as countless people report feeling that it has helped them get their digestive system moving. Being able to trigger regular gastrointestinal movement is a key bodily process. It has the all-important job of removing waste, and thereby, toxins.
Ginger is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it can help reduce the symptoms of many health problems—including arthritis, cancer, type 2 diabetes, dysmenorrhea, and even respiratory conditions.2 Many recent trials have demonstrated compelling evidence for ginger’s ability to do so. Because of this, holistic healthcare professionals have been recommending it to people with these types of diseases as a natural treatment option.
Ginger contains compounds called shogaols and gingerols that can help in stimulating stomach contractions and emptying. Therefore, the spice may help with bloating, cramping, indigestion, or uncomfortable gas. Ginger has also been shown to have an antiemetic effect, meaning it can help prevent nausea in some people. Thus, pregnant women and individuals undergoing chemotherapy often take advantage of this superfood’s potent, soothing qualities.
Green tea contains polyphenols, which have effects like reducing inflammation—which, in turn, can help fight cancer. Green tea also has plenty of a catechin called EGCG—a natural antioxidant that, among other benefits, helps prevent cell damage.
Studies suggest that green tea can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer. It also promotes oral health, helps control body weight, lowers blood pressure, triggers antibacterial and antiviral activity, increases bone mineral density, provides solar ultraviolet protection, and offers antifibrotic properties.3 Another tea in particular—peppermint tea—has garnered a reputation of helping improve stubborn IBS symptoms as well as other digestive issues.
Nutritious foods that have a low glycemic index are helpful in managing blood glucose levels. Let’s explore how superfoods can help if you or a loved one has diabetes.
Beets are superfoods because they are a great source of fiber, manganese, folate, iron, potassium, and vitamin C. While beets have a glycemic index of 61—which is considered to be a medium level—they have a low glycemic load, meaning they won’t raise your blood sugar too much because the overall amount of carbohydrates they contain is on the low end. Beets also contain nitrate, which may help lower blood pressure.4
Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants—known as anthocyanins and phytoflavinoids—and are also high in vitamin C and potassium.5 Anthocyanins may help prevent cardiovascular disease, and they are low in carbohydrates and rich in fiber too—both of which can help with diabetic challenges.
When you consume fish that has omega-3 fatty acids—such as salmon and other oily fish—you can lower your risk of lower cardiovascular disease and increase your HDL, or “good” cholesterol. Because oily fish are high in protein and healthy fat, they slow the absorption of carbohydrates, which aids in balancing blood sugars. Not to mention, eating omega-3 fatty acids is also connected with brain health, so you can’t go wrong.
Also packed with omega-3 fatty acids, along with fiber and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA),6 these nuts make a valuable snack when trying to control blood sugar and manage your diabetes. They also contain one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants out of any of the nuts. Studies show that people who eat walnuts are less likely to end up with diabetes.7 This is possibly due to the higher fat and fiber content, which helps keep people feeling full and satisfied for longer.
Kale has iron, calcium, copper, vitamin K, and vitamin A, which all have important functions in the body. Its dark color indicates how nutrient-dense it is. Quercetin and kaempferol—antioxidants with numerous other beneficial effects on people’s health—are also found in kale. Since it’s so high in fiber, kale aids in slowing the absorption of other carbohydrates to prevent blood sugar spikes. This helps people with diabetes keep their blood sugar levels regulated.
When you’re struggling with arthritis, you are undoubtedly experiencing some pain and discomfort due to the swelling in your body. Incorporating these superfoods into your diet can help abate that dreaded inflammation.
The cocoa powder in chocolate is abundant in phytochemicals, which are plant-based chemicals that can enhance your health in several ways.8 For starters, dark chocolate has a higher concentration of phytochemicals than white or milk chocolates. Many people still simply think of processed candy when chocolate comes to mind, but chocolate is actually quite beneficial to your health if it is high enough in cocoa powder. Get into the habit of checking the percentage on the wrapper to get the most health benefits out of your sweet treat.
Research says that phytochemicals may be able to reduce inflammation throughout the human body, which is why consumption of phytochemicals can lead to lower severity of symptoms connected with chronic disease—including, of course, arthritis. The key here is seeking out foods that note a high cocoa content—70 percent or higher should be your aim if you want to reap the rewards.
Like anything, though, too much can be detrimental. Chocolate can be a very energy-dense food and easily contribute to weight gain when consumed in excess. Chocolate high in sugar can, in turn, lead right back to inflammation, so checking the label for added sugars is crucial.
The chemical curcumin—found abundantly in turmeric—and other helpful chemicals may have the ability to decrease swelling. Because of this positive effect, turmeric can be quite beneficial in treating conditions caused by chronic inflammation. In fact, some research shows that ingesting turmeric extracts can reduce pain and ultimately improve function in people with conditions like knee osteoarthritis. In other studies, turmeric was effective in decreasing pain in individuals with osteoarthritis.9
Quinoa is rich in fiber and not only offers more protein than any other grain but offers a particularly high-quality protein. Additionally, it contains a good amount of iron and potassium. Quinoa is what’s referred to as a “complete” protein, meaning it contains all essential amino acids required by the body.
The power grain is naturally gluten free, so it serves as an excellent alternative for people with Celiac disease who can’t tolerate other grains like wheat and barley. Research has found that quinoa may suppress the release of cytokines, which can help prevent—and treat—inflammation.10
Olive oil is abundant in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids.11 Plus, its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial qualities may decrease not just arthritis symptoms, but the risk of cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, and certain cancers as well. Because of its main phenolic compounds—oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol—it also provides significant antioxidant activity.
As hinted earlier by the health benefits we saw with walnuts, the wider family of nuts is beneficial to overall wellness. In general, nuts tend to harbor high concentrations of the “good” fats that are essential to bodily processes, as well as protein, minerals, and vitamins.
Many nuts and seeds are great sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help lower cholesterol and reduce the heart disease risk—which is often higher with arthritis patients. In addition, some nuts and seeds are rich in ALA.
Other nuts have high amounts of magnesium, vitamin E, and L-Arginine, which possibly plays a role in controlling inflammation. Studies have shown that people who eat a diet high in these nutrients typically have lower levels of inflammation-causing molecules, as well as higher levels of an anti-inflammatory protein called adiponectin, compared to those who consumed less.
What you eat has a direct, significant impact on cholesterol levels. When you incorporate superfoods into your diet, you can help lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which will help you achieve healthier overall cholesterol levels.
Legumes are plentiful in fiber and have a nice balance of carbohydrates and protein. A high fiber intake has been linked with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.12 In fact, by lowering LDL (“bad" cholesterol) levels, the soluble fiber from beans, flaxseed, oats, and oat bran can help lower your total blood cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that high-fiber foods like these may have other heart health benefits too—including reducing inflammation and blood pressure.
Avocados are naturally filled with potassium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. Incorporating avocado into your meals, such as adding them to a salad, helps in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.13 Current research actually suggests that adding even just one avocado per day to a heart-healthy meal plan can help improve HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels in people who need to manage their weight.14
While almonds may be relatively high in fat, it’s healthy monounsaturated fat. Almonds are also high in magnesium and vitamin E, which have the ability to calm arteries and improve blood flow—both key in maintaining a healthy heart. Adding some almonds to your daily dietary routine is often suggested by healthcare professionals, as it can beneficially impact your lipid profile.15
Garlic doesn’t only help lower cholesterol. Believe it or not, this pungent superfood is even said to help prevent the common cold.16 Thus, garlic is a great ingredient to add to your meals and snacks.
In addition to immunity-boosting benefits, allicin—one of the potent sulfuric compounds found in garlic—possesses antioxidant activity shown to cause a variety of useful actions within the human body. Allicin exhibits antiplatelet, hypolipidemic, and procirculatory effects, demonstrating to scientists that it could actually have some antibacterial, chemopreventive, and anticancer activities.17
Packed with high amounts of polyphenols, black tea should surely be high up on your grocery list if you don’t already have some sitting in your pantry.18 Among other benefits, antioxidants help to remove free radicals and decrease the occurrence of cell damage throughout the body. Ultimately, they can help lower your risk of chronic disease. Groups of polyphenols—such as catechins, thearubigins, and theaflavins—are the main sources of antioxidants obtained from black tea. Science says these likely have the power to promote overall health.
In fact, compared to a placebo group, study results showed a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol levels in participants who drank black tea—and without any undesirable side effects.19 Researchers have come to the conclusion that black tea can improve cholesterol levels—especially in people who are at risk for obesity and heart disease.
It’s important for pregnant women to fuel their bodies with as nutritious food as possible. After all, a new life is being created! If you are pregnant, aim to incorporate superfoods like these into your diet to help give your body the extra support it needs.
Spinach is very high in insoluble fiber, which has the potential to boost your health in many ways. For instance, it adds bulk to stool so food can pass smoothly through your digestive system, which helps prevent constipation. Since it’s low in carbohydrates, it’s an easy ingredient to add to your meals more often. Spinach is also a fantastic source of several vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, A, K1—essential for blood clotting—iron, folic acid, and calcium.
Because it’s abundant in folic acid and iron—which are needed in higher amounts when pregnant—it’s one of the best superfoods you can consume when carrying a baby. Plus, in consuming leafy green vegetables, you may also be reducing your baby’s risk of having a low birth weight.20
Bananas are rich in all-important potassium and fiber, making this fruit a go-to for countless people around the world. Potassium contributes much-needed electrolytes and carbohydrates (which provide energy) and may be well-tolerated when it comes to the nausea many expectant mothers experience. If you cannot tolerate other fruits when experiencing morning sickness, we highly suggest you try bananas. The fiber in bananas also helps regulate bowel movements, and you surely do not want to deal with unnecessary cases of upset stomach on top of other symptoms you may be feeling.
This tart yet flavorful yogurt is an excellent source of protein and the extra calcium you will need while pregnant. Remember, both you and the baby will be needing nutrients, so get more into your system so that you two can share and neither ends up deficient.
Chicken is among the list of superfoods recommended for pregnancy because of the extra nutrients needed during this time. Chicken is high in lean protein, which means you’re not getting as many unhealthy, saturated fats.
Eggs are high in protein as well, but they are also rich in choline. Choline is essential for many processes in your body. These processes include brain development and overall health, which you want for both you and the child.21
As great as it is to learn about all the ways superfoods can enhance people’s lives in general, food affects people differently. You can understand what nutrition your body needs by taking a nutrition DNA test.
If you’re ready to learn which foods, in particular, would be best at supporting your body and its specific needs, take the first step and sign up for one of our FREE sample reports. Once you download it, you’ll have a sense of what your DNA nutrition recommendations could look like to help you eat for your genes.
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